Where growing, making & good living come together

Today I…

Posted by on Monday 18 July 2011 in DIY, meta | 10 comments

Today I slept late because we were up til the early hours putting the world to rights with a friend. When we’re elected supreme rulers of the world, things are gonna be sweeeeet. ;)

Today I sanded and re-primed the bathroom door frame – we did all the woodwork in there yesterday but the door frame “alligator” cracked so I had to start again rather than getting on with the first coat of the actual paint. Note to self: use the right brush for cleaning your teeth.

Today I filled in various cracks/holes/seams in/around the bathroom woodwork and in the coal hole-turned utility room. I heart decorators’ caulk.

Today I “supervised” John making doughnuts for the first time in reaction/protest to everyone going on about the new giant chain doughnut shop that’s opened up near the motorway. They were pretty good for a first try but have lots of ideas on how we can make them better. However we’ve not sure we *should* make them better – too much temptation.

Today I wandered over to Homebase (our “convenience” DIY store, although we prefer to get major stuff from better/cheaper places further afield) to buy a tile trowel and ended up buying in addition to the tile trowel & spacers: a little pot of green enamel to revamp some lanterns (reduced from £4 to £1), two 3-exposure photo frames (reduced from £10 each to £3), two mini succulents and a mini cactus (to be potted on together for John’s desk), a Calla Lily (pictured above) and some sort of stripey-leaved red Bromeliad — the latter two because I want some more houseplants and specifically at the moment, some colour for the bathroom. Naughty unplanned spending though.

Today I bumped (literally) into the same guy three times at Homebase. It got embarrassing by the third time.

Today I used my new tile trowel with my bought-super-cheap-at-Focus-the-other-week tiles to make a splashback in the former coal hole/now utility room. The tiling gods were smiling down on me for my first spot of tiling in 12 years – the corner to edge of the wall cabinet was exactly four tiles plus spacers, and the corner to the edge of the wall the other way was exact three – no cutting required!

Today I sat down at my computer to do a bit of work and didn’t realise how much tile adhesive I had stuck on my arm until it all dried and flaked off onto the floor. Another note to self: sweep that up.

Today I sanded the bathroom door frame AGAIN because the second coat of primer had cracked in the same way as the first. I decided to get really aggressive with the sand paper and ended up peeling – in pretty big sheets – three layers of paint off the door frame. It seems that somewhere down the line someone really skimped on the prep – the newly exposed level was perfectly glossy. I sanded that back though and primed it for a third frickin’ time and so far, no cracks. Woohoo.

Today I was grateful that John volunteered to cook a big batch of pasta sauce for the freezer so we could have that for dinner rather than me having to stand in front of the stove this evening. He’s serving it as I type this. Final note to self: type faster!

What have you been up to today?

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Ten things

Posted by on Monday 6 June 2011 in chickens, cooking, DIY, frugal, growing, soap | 2 comments

  1. Buff the chicken has been in isolation since last Wednesday since the others started really *viciously* bullying her (as I said on Twitter, it’s disturbing how vicious chickens can be). I think there have been pecking order issues over the last few weeks and it’s stopped her being able to eat properly. She feels very bony (even for a pure breed) and is weak as a result – looking back at old photos of her, the difference is stark. I’m hoping some time by herself and some special food will turn her around but I wouldn’t be surprised to go down one morning to find she’d died overnight. Sigh.
  2. We painted the bathroom on Sunday – not the woodwork yet but the second coat of the walls, ahead of the cupboards being fitted tomorrow. One June mini goal down (nearly)!
  3. In other housey news, last year we found a hidden coal hole at the front of our house and over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having it damp-proofed and turned into a utility room. It’s not been cheap but now has a proper full height doorway and is a proper extra room for the house – it’ll free up room in the kitchen too. It should be finished this week, hurrah!
  4. While that’s going on at great expense inside, John’s DIY-mad dad is fitting a fence for us outside — to help contain the dog and the chickens a bit more. The fence is going to be rather frugal for a new fence as the lumberyard John’s dad goes to was throwing away about 20 horizontal fencing beams and some posts, because they’d got slightly bleached in the sun so couldn’t be sold “as new” any more. Madness! But useful timing for us!
  5. And speaking of freebies, someone was taking a seemingly brand new electric staple gun in its case at the tip last time John’s dad was visiting – they told him it was “broken” but he took it home and found they’d just inserted the staplers in the wrong place. We now have a brand new working electric staple gun for free ;)
  6. I never used to use bar soap to wash anywhere other than my hands – it left a film and dried my skin, causing my face in particular to get greasier in compensation. But my olive oil soap leaves my skin clean and soft – and it stays feeling that way for 12+ hours unlike just about every other cleaning method I’ve tried. I very much like it.
  7. I made the ugliest soda bread I’ve ever made today – I don’t know what went wrong but it grew really unevenly. Still tasted lovely with soup for lunch though :)
  8. Some of my rapini has gone to seed – the heads weren’t big enough to warrant harvesting. Damn the hot spring!
  9. Do you make your own quiches? I’m looking for (frugal) store-cupboard recipe quiche ingredient ideas for when we’ve not got much else in — Viksterbean on Twitter suggested antipasti such as olives and artichokes, and that made me think about adding a swirl of pesto too. Any other ideas?
  10. Boron would like it to be known that I did not write this post alone. Apologies for the poor quality of my webcam – I only ever use it for these type of pics ;)
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Our long weekend

Posted by on Tuesday 26 April 2011 in chickens, DIY, growing, wild food, wood stuff | 8 comments

Cor, I feel like I’ve not written here for weeks! Like Christmas, Easter doesn’t mean anything to us here – not even the consumption of chocolate – so we’ve just had four days of doing nothing. Well, not doing nothing…

On Friday, I spent a lot of time reading about Square Foot Gardening. It’s something I’d heard vaguely about before and suspected I’d borrow it’s spacing principles when sowing/planting in my various wooden planters, but Friday was the first time I sat down and read about it. Then fully converted to the idea, I built a 3ftx3ft raised bed from our old bathroom cupboard doors (4ftx4ft is more typical but my doors were 6ft tall so 3ft-square was easier and also tucked away better into a space next to the pond).

I reused the former hinge screws to mark out every foot around the frame, so I could easily divide it into those magic foot square sections with twine. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll plant in it yet but looking at the planting guidelines, my nine squares could be a rather productive space.

We did have a rather lazy day on Saturday – mostly reading in the sun – but Sunday was productive again: we painted the bathroom. I’m holding off talking about our bathroom renovation until its finished (two long months and counting) but I will say, it’s now rather blue.

It needs some more filling/sanding then a second coat, but it’s feels like it’s finally starting to come together. Hurrah.

Yesterday, we had the bathroom flooring fitted (hence the rush to paint at least one coat on the walls on a sunny Sunday) then went for a dog walk at Shipley Glen. When we came back, I pottered in the garden – chicken chores and potting on (the third batch of tomato plants, the two types of courgette, some lollo roso lettuces). I’ve decided that I’m not allowed to sow any more stuff until I’ve dealt with the stuff currently growing – stuff that needs pricking out or potting on – so I don’t get overwhelmed and leave things in too small pots for too long, as happened at some points last year. I can’t wait until stuff can be planted out in the garden en masse though – the greenhouse is just about full of seedlings and the sun porch is pretty packed too. It would also be useful to be able to start clearing space in the salad troughs/pots – grow faster lettuces, I want to eat you!

On the chicken front, Ginger is still broody – I’m kicking her out of the nest box whenever I go down there to make sure she gets food and water regularly, and I’m getting some harsh bwarking in return. I think I managed to talk Blacks out of following her though – she was acting a little hot & bothered for a couple of days but I cooled her down a bit and she’s back to normal and laying again now.

And while we were down near the chickens yesterday, John spotted what he called “the biggest mushrooms I’ve ever seen in my life” – a slight exaggeration maybe but they are pretty sizeable:

They’re on the tree trunk marking the division between our and our neighbour’s gardens and since we walk past there at least once a day, I’m pretty surprised how they got so big without us noticing. I think they’re Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) – edible but only really when they’re young. These guys are probably past it now but I’ll keep an eye out for future fruiting.

So our four-day-weekend was a decent combination of laziness and productivity, how was yours?

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Frozen beck, unfrozen pipes

Posted by on Thursday 23 December 2010 in DIY | 2 comments

I took these pictures of the beck (stream) at the bottom of our garden yesterday afternoon.

(Downstream/upstream respectively)

And I took this picture of the water pipe in our kitchen after we’d finished mopping up 3 mop buckets of water from the kitchen floor.


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An expensive lesson

Posted by on Tuesday 21 December 2010 in DIY | 0 comments

As I mentioned in my “spending during my no spend week” round-up, our boiler broke and had to be fixed this week.

It stopped working last Sunday – we thought it was just a sensor playing up but when the plumber replaced the thermostats on Tuesday evening, it still didn’t fix the problem so he had to come back on Saturday – replaced another thing (essentially a £35 washer on the diverter valve), went through a whole load of troubleshooting then replaced something else, something more expensive, something electronic. And you know what? if we’d acted earlier, we could have avoided all of it.

We hadn’t had the boiler serviced in the year and a bit since we moved in. We knew we should but didn’t get around to it.

A few months ago, we noticed that there was something leaking very, very slightly (the washer thing on the diverter valve) but we pretty much ignored it – we’d get it fixed when we got it serviced and getting it serviced was on “to do at some point” list.

Those with a speedy intellect may have made the leap that, with hindsight, is painfully obvious. The leak dripped onto electronic control board and after a couple of months of occasional dripping, the board decided it had had enough.

After finally fixing it, the plumber did a service – he thought it was possibly the first service it had ever had, in its eight years of use, not just our 15 months here – and between that, all the parts & the rest of his labour, it cost us £292 – and left us without any central heating or hot water for a week in the middle of winter. (Our woodburners did a great job of keeping us warm in the living room and office, but the rest of the house was chilly and felt increasingly damp as the week went on.)

If we’d had a service and had the diverter valve thing replaced when we first noticed the drip, it would have cost us about £90 in total. The boiler would also have been running inefficiently because of eight years of build up.

We’ve learnt a very important lesson about maintenance – and about how procrastination can cost you a lot more money in the long run. I really hope we apply the knowledge in the future!

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Chicken shelter from two old pallets

Posted by on Monday 8 November 2010 in chickens, DIY, making | 6 comments

I finally built my long-awaited shelter for the chicken run on Saturday – hurrah! It will provide more stomping space (since they can stomp around underneath and on top), more shelter for the rain and somewhere sheltered to hang another drinker.

My original plan had been very fancy – involving a sloped solid platform (to be a shelter, with the water draining into a mini-gutter) topped with perches. The actual version is simpler – two small pallets (about half the size of normal pallet), one cut in half to be the legs, one left intact to be the platform, then finished off with scrap wood.

Since I was using already pretty solid pallets, it came together really quickly – three little bits of sawing (through the support struts of the pallet to be the legs) and a few screws, and I had a strong platform, which I could use as a work bench for cutting the scrap planks to size.

The raised bit in the middle has three purposes:

1) I couldn’t find any wood to fit the gap between the two middle slats – everything was either just too big or way too small – so I fitted a too-big piece across the top (it’s supported underneath by some little pieces on the support joists);

2) The raised sides are a bit narrow for the purpose really but could be perched on if a chicken felt that way inclined; and,

3) It gives a neat bribery trough for corn and similar treats.

It’s a little low really — they can get under there and stand up, but not stretch properly.

But I’m really glad I made this one – it showed me how easy it was and because it was smaller, it was easier for me to manage on my own without having resort to Long-Armed John’s assistance. It’s a useful prototype really – and aside from the cost of a few screws, completely free!

I’m going to make another version with two full sizes pallets next weekend – that should be more than tall enough for them. Once I’ve made that, I’m going to secure more perches going to and from the platforms and their existing perches so they can play “floor is hot lava” around the run :)

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